Desk Jobs Are Rough; Six-Week Fitness Assessment

I keep hitting a wall with my training. Don’t you hate when that happens? At a certain level of reps (4+ for multiple sets with 85-90% of my max) and length of time (more than 30 minutes) I don’t want to train. I was also feeling beat up and old and losing my drive to train.kettlebell-broken

Riding a desk instead of slinging rubber at work is even more painful than I imagined. So I began experimenting with programs based on the fundamental human movements so I can move better again. The first program was two ladders of 1-2-3 reps with half-get ups, clean and presses, bent over rows, and goblet squats. I rolled a pair of dice, multiplied by 10 to get my reps for swings, and a lap just carrying a kettlebell in different positions.

Five days a week, two weeks in, and I wasn’t looking forward to it anymore. Keeping the movements, I took a page from traditional bodybuilding with a twist and Dan John’s One Exercise a Day template. Instead of having a “leg day” I have a squat pattern day. My days are as follows:

  • Monday: Get-Ups (groundwork)
  • Tuesday: Swings (hinge pattern)
  • Wednesday: Clean & Press (push pattern)
  • Thursday: Goblet and Front Squats (squat pattern)
  • Friday: Overhead/Rack/Farmer’s Carry (loaded carry)

Throughout the week I do pull-ups off of a door at work for my pulling movement pattern. This has kept my training short, and I can hit it harder now since I have a lot of recovery programmed in before I hit that pattern hard again.

Diet wise there has been some changes. The intermittent fasting is done for now. I did a 24 hour religious fast, and didn’t reintroduce solids until 38 hours later. I hurt for weeks, developing or triggering heartburn. My appetite hasn’t quite returned yet so I have been eating smaller meals and more fiber.

Let’s see what that’s done for body composition.

Body Composition (inches)

Body Part                      Before                  After                   -/+

Neck                               14.12                14.12                 0

Shoulders                      43.50                  43.50              0

Chest                              37.75                 38              +0.25

Waist                             33.5               33.5                    0

Biceps                           12.5              12.62               +0.12

Forearms                      11                 10.92               -0.08

Thighs                         21.25                 21.5            +0.25

Calves                          13.68                13.5             -0.18

Weight                  157.4lbs          154.4        -3.0lbs

Body Fat %                17.8%                17.8%         0%

Lean Body Mass    129.3lbs            126.9        -2.4lbs

Not much as far as changes go. This next 6 weeks I’ll be chasing higher reps with lighter weights. Two warm up sets, the third set will be AMRAP minus one, the fourth and fifth sets will be with lighter kettlebells but higher reps. The plan is to increase strength and stimulate hypertrophy. We’ll see.

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Rebuilding the Foundation With The Rite of Passage; Six Week Assessment

That six weeks blew by fast. I started it on week one with the Heavy day: 1-2-3 reps of clean and press with the 53lb kettlebell. Light day was a single rep and the moderate day was 1-2 reps. From there I added a ladder every week.

On the light day I practiced my kettlebell snatches. With the 44lb kettlebell I can perform it pretty good. With the 53 it’s not so pretty. This cycle I’ll just do high pulls with the 53, work on the explosiveness needed to launch it over head.

The next cycle simply adds a rep. Rather than 1-2-3 it will be 2-3-4 reps, starting with a single ladder and working up to six. Volume wise that will take me back to week three of this last cycle, just denser with more work in less time.

What did the slow build up do?

Body Composition (inches)

Body Part                      Before                  After                   -/+

Neck                               13.75                14.12              +0.37

Shoulders                      43.50                  43.50              0

Chest                              38                   37.75              -0.25

Waist                             33.25               33.5              +0.25

Biceps                           12.37              12.5               +0.13

Forearms                      10.62                11               +0.38

Thighs                         21.75                 21.25            -0.50

Calves                          13.25                13.68             +0.43

Weight                  155.6lbs          157.4        +1.8lbs

Body Fat %                18.1%                17.8%         -0.3%

Lean Body Mass    127.5lbs            129.3        +1.8lbs

Some gains, denser muscle and a slight decrease in fat. I should probably eat some more salads…and I really don’t like salads instead of grains or pastas when we eat out.

Slow but Steady

This assessment snuck up on me, honestly. I have been disciplined with my eating according to the Time Restricted Diet which naturally cut my calories to over a thousand less a week. It was a little hard at first with my growling stomach arguing with my willpower. What helped is that weekends are free, so long I don’t raid a dessert bar at a buffet. Gives me something to look forward to. It took awhile for me to notice the weight to fall and I’m hoping that’s because its mainly fat while I keep the protein up so I don’t waste much muscle.

As far as training goes I changed over to a daily Rite Of Passage type program. 4 days a week I press the 53lb kettlebell, then swing it for a 100 reps and then carry the 70lb around or my pair of 53s. I think it may be a little much for me, I’m not recovering well. So I will dial back the swings to 50 a day. Not sure if I’ll just use the 53, the 70, or alternate on different days.

Either way, here’s what it’s done for body comp. In two months we’ll see if it worked to get my press strength up and maintained my conditioning.

Body Composition (inches)

Body Part                      Before                  After                   -/+

Neck                               14.5                14.5              0

Shoulders             44.5                  45               +0.5

Chest                      37.5                   37.5                      0

Waist                             34.0                        33.5         -0.5

Biceps                    12.8              12.8                         0

Forearms                   11.2            11.1                                     -0.1

Thighs                         22.8                 22.0                          -0.8

Calves                          13.8                   13.5                          -.30

Weight                  158.8lbs          156.4        -2.4lbs

Body Fat %                18.1%                17.1%         -1.0%

Lean Body Mass    130.1lbs            129.7         -0.4lbs

I lost most of the gains and I can only blame my poor choice of diet. The Time-Restricted Plus plan is supposed to be sustainable so we’ll see.

 

That’s Disappointing…

Eating everything in sight is a hard habit to break; it has been taking a while to get back into a more disciplined eating style. I upped my protein to maintain the lean body mass I had gained. Still it resulted in a drastic drop in calories and I was ‘hangry’ without the extra 500-1000 extra calories. I searched for a plan to cut fat without sacrificing what I had, finding most from T-Nation’s Facebook feed; The Time-Restricted-Plus DietFat Loss & High-Protein Breakfast,  and How Many Carbs Do You Need. The next six weeks I am going to make sure my carbs do not exceed my weight (158lbs=158 grams), cut junk, eat breakfast, and intermittent fasting with protein pulses. Already started after reading the Time Restricted Plus article.

Performance wise, when I restarted Simple and Sinister it was at a higher level. I could do ten one-hand swings with the 53lb kettlebell after the double kettlebell work increased my grip strength. I do have to give credit to the new Rogue kettlebell’s finish as well. Before I had to switch hands after five reps halfway through the set, and with my get-ups I decided to just use the 44lb kettlebell instead of alternating with the 28. Within two weeks, I was able to incorporate the 53. Then I had a two-week break to move (trading lifting weights for lifting furniture) and started again. I will do S&S until I am 12 weeks from the June 1 competition.

The March 1 competition I have not even prepared for, specifically. The plan for the June 1 competition is to start a near daily ROP, an idea I got from a thread on the StrongFirst forum. I will have another assessment halfway through the program.

So where am I on body composition now? Worse than I thought actually.

Body Composition (inches)

Body Part                      Before                  After                   -/+

Neck                               14.5                14.5              0

Shoulders             44.8                  44.5                -0.3

Chest                      38.8                   37.5                      -1.3

Waist                             34.1                        34.0         -0.1

Biceps                    12.8              12.8                         0

Forearms                   11.1            11.2                                      +0.1

Thighs                         22.6                 22.8                          +0.2

Calves                          13.6                   13.8                          +.20

Weight                  164.2lbs          158.8         -5.4lbs

Body Fat %                18.3%                18.1%         -0.2%

Lean Body Mass    134.2lbs            130.1         -4.1lbs

I lost most of the gains and I can only blame my poor choice of diet. The Time-Restricted Plus plan is supposed to be sustainable so we’ll see.

 

Ended On A High Note

IMG_6792 (1)Training wise, I ended the cycle with a bit of a whimper after getting sick the last part of it. I pushed back the competition day from the 1st to the 9th so I could finish the Total Tension Complex program. So we’ll cover both form and fitness.

The last cycle of the year I focused on adding muscle for two reasons, vanity and increasing strength. Three weeks in I beat a personal record on the double kettlebell military press. It taught me a few things during this program: four week cycles to preserve my CNS and lower fat levels, and no hard training during cold and flu season. I read somewhere that it suppresses the immune system as the body rebuilds itself after training. I also formed a love/hate relationship with front squats and double kettlebell swings. IMG_6794 (1)

As far as my strength and conditioning goals I ended 2014 stronger, maintaining the 62lb one-rep max from the last competition. My lack of conditioning was cured by the double swings and 5 minute snatch tests. Instead of my test weight I trained with the 44lb kettlebell. When I tested on Friday with the 53lb ‘bell I increased my reps from 29 to 54. I ended the year more conditioned as well.

So what did the double kettlebells and eating everything in sight do as far as body composition?

Body Composition (inches)

Body Part                      Before                  After                   -/+

Neck                               14.0                14.5              +0.5

Shoulders             42                  44.8                   +2.8

Chest                      36.2                   38.8                      +2.6

Waist                             32.5                        34.1         +1.6

Biceps                    12.3              12.8                         +.50

Forearms                   11.1            11.1                                      +0.1

Thighs                         21.20                 22.6                          +1.4

Calves                          13.5                   13.6                          +.10

Weight                  153.8lbs          164.2         +10.4lbs

Body Fat %                16.1%                18.3%         +2.2%

Lean Body Mass    129.1lbs            134.2         +5.1lbs

Gained over 10lbs, and looking at how I ended last year the complex added muscle instead of just fat from eating all the holiday food. Might repeat that, or just watch what I eat… The next cycle I’ll return to Simple & Sinister on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and seeing what Strength Aerobics do for my conditioning on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

 

I Shrank…For Now; 2014’s Last Assessment

Last Assessment of the year, the next six week cycle will end early January, and I’m continuing my plan to do the Total Tension Complex for hypertrophy. With that being said, what did the modified Simple Strength program do? As far as my one-rep max I’m still at 62lbs or 41% of my bodyweight, a stalemate except for the improved trunk strength from hardstyle planks, farmer walks and suitcase carries. I cannot complain there though I think I would need more time to coax the press strength up. I’m already plotting out the first part of next year. Now to see what my body composition looks like.

Body Composition (inches)

Body Part                      Before                  After                   -/+

Neck                               14.2                 14.0              -0.2

Shoulders             43.25                  42                   -1.25

Chest                      37.5                   36.2                              -1.3

Waist                             33                        32.5         -.5

Biceps                    12.37              12.3                         -.07

Forearms                   11            11.1                                      +0.1

Thighs                         21.25                 21.2                          -.05

Calves                          13.75                   13.5                          -.25

Weight                  153.4lbs          153.8         +0.4lbs

Body Fat %                16.7%                16.1%         -0.6%

Lean Body Mass    127.8lbs            129.1         +1.3lbs

Small shift in weight, little fat loss and muscle gain, and overall I shrank. The next 6 weeks will be interesting with the double kettlebell complex. Time to put the twin 44s to use.

IMG_6575.JPG

Simple Strength and Bad Diet; Six Week Assessment

Limited measurements this time, had a time crunch so I just measured lean body mass and body fat. The program I used, Simple Strength, has kept my strength in place. But no progression in press strength, which I think was from cycling floor presses and military presses in two week blocks. My swings progressed, so I’ll focus on just military presses for another six weeks.

Body Composition (inches)

Body Part                      Before                  After                   -/+

Neck                               14.12                 14.2              0.8

Shoulders             43.25                   N/A

Chest                      37.5            N/A

Waist                             32                  33         +1.0

Biceps                    12.37                N/A

Forearms                   11            N/A

Thighs                         21.25                 N/A

Calves                          13.75                   N/A

Weight                  153.4lbs          153.4          0lbs

Body Fat %                14.8%                16.7%         +1.9%

Lean Body Mass    130.7lbs            127.8          -2.9lbs

Those bodyfat levels are unacceptable, the cause was I stopped logging my food. My weight being the same I’m not worried about a caloric deficit but dropping my carb levels.

S&S/ROP Hybrid Kettlebell Program; Six Week Assessment

Pavel doing one-hand swings from S&S

After this last competition, I began an Easy Strength version of the Rite of Passage. I train kettlebell swings, presses, and loaded carries. Fit into the rest periods are the correctives needed for my gaps, such as patterning, grinding, and doing the swing pattern, relearning tightness with a push-up plank. I even found room to practice the Siu Lim Tao form from Wing Chun Kung Fu, alternating it with the drills from the book Taking It to the Street. So far, I finish all this around 30 minutes. A nice change from the near hour-long training sessions I had been doing.

It was two days of Simple and Sinister by the book, then two days where the Clean & Press following the Rite of Passage’s ladder scheme replaced the Get-Ups. A great variation that succeeded in pushing strength up, except it is a focused bus bench program since the intensity is not sustainable. At my age I am Quadrant III (see Easy Strength or Intervention) so I need to ease back the intensity, staying on the park bench for a while with the new program.

Speaking of Intervention, I went through it answering the 10 questions, and then applying the five principles to construct a program. Following the advice of the book and Scott Iardella this is the first program I have ever written for myself so this will be an interesting six weeks until the next assessment. I recommend the book highly, now to see what the S&S/ROP hybrid did as far as body composition.

Body Composition (inches)

Body Part                      Before                  After                   -/+

Neck                               14.12                 14.12               0

Shoulders             43.75                   43.25            -.50

Chest                      37.25            37.50                 +.25

Waist                             32.25                  32         -.25

Biceps                    12.43                 12.37             -0.06

Forearms                   10.87             11.00          +0.13

Thighs                         21.81                 21.25      -.56

Calves                          13.81                   13.75         -.06

Weight                  151.6lbs          153.4          +1.8lbs

Body Fat %                15.3%                14.8%         -.50%

Lean Body Mass    128.4lbs            130.7           +2.3lbs

Well I expected to be fatter with the excess calories I had been eating but my body put them to use apparently. Less fat, more lean body mass mostly in the chest and forearms. Strength is up, body fat is in acceptable levels and lean body mass is up. Not complaining at all.